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Todd discusses in detail the arrest and trial that led to the ultimate sacrifice that would pay the debt owed by all mankind.
Ten Questions Driving Home One Point
The Day Heaven and Hell Agreed
This Was No Blowout. This Was a Slow Leak.
Pure, Unadulterated Hell: Dealing with It in This Life & Avoiding It in the Next
A Tale of Three Sacrifices
A gentleman by the name of Richard Selzer, who is a surgeon, wrote a book called Mortal Lessons. This is one of the stories he shares in there. He says, "I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon has followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.
Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks, 'Will my mouth always be like this?' she asks. 'Yes,' I say, 'it will. It is because the nerve was cut.'
She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. 'I like it,' he says, 'It is kind of cute.' All at once I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works."
You know, every time I read that, it makes me do what I just did. It makes me miss a beat there. What Selzer is saying is when you see that kind of tender love… A mouth that no longer is as God intended it, but that the one who is in a covenant relationship with it loves it so much he says, "We'll make it work. I love you."
What you just saw on a video is that kiss. Our mouths are far more distorted than just a little facial nerve being severed. Our entire souls have been severed, and there is no way for that to compress against the holiness of God ever again. He did more than distort his lips to fit our sin. What I'm about to do in these next few minutes is an embarrassing effort. I say that because to try and speak about this section of Scripture is foolish.
A crass analogy would be what you see sometimes in the arena of sports. A number of years ago when Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak, there were about eight minutes of network silence while they let Cal Ripken just run victoriously around the stadium in Baltimore where the fans poured out their adoration in adulation of him.
They spoke not a word, the announcers. Everybody talked about the genius of those who were given the responsibility of commentating that moment because it was a moment that commentating would only interfere with. The only thing you can do is stand back and watch such a moment in awe.
If Tiger Woods, by some great feat in the game of golf, comes back from further than any individual has ever come back at the Master's to win his third green jacket in a row, you watch what Jim Nantz will do today on CBS. He won't say a word as Woods walks up the eighteenth fairway. He'll say, "Let's just take in the moment and listen to the welcome." Those who concern themselves with such things will comment on what genius it was for Nantz to not speak because there were no words that could wrap their arms around the moment.
No, there are certain times when all you can do is sit back and watch. What I'm about to do is to violate that, because we're going to walk through the garden again, where Jesus is taken by a Roman cohort, the religious leaders of the day, and by his disciple who betrayed him. We're going to watch him run through six trials that were all a farce, one increasingly on top of the other. Three religious and three civil, all of which end the same way: with an inability to pronounce this man guilty.
With beatings interspersed and a cross waiting at the end…beaten so severely he could not make the walk of shame, that Via Dolorosa, by himself…to where Simon the Cyrene had to come and bear that moment for him as he walked up toward Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where he was crucified in shame, where he bore our guilt on a tree.
We're going to walk you through this, but you need to know, this is not really a text to be taught; it's something to be silently in awe of. Words only get in the way. One thing you do need to realize through this is that Jesus is firmly in control throughout. This is not a moment that evil is having its way. In fact, as I thought about this message weeks ago, I really thought about in my mind and wanted to title it, "The Day Heaven and Hell Agreed."
It was the day heaven and hell agreed that one thing needed to happen. Hell said, "We have to rid ourselves of this Savior." Heaven said, "Yes. We must let this Savior experience the hell sin brings about." What hell did not know, heaven did. That is the cross was not the end. We will meet here again next Sunday to celebrate that. But today they are working together. There is a confluence of sovereignty, if you will, working with the evil and darkness of the day that wanted to rid itself of this good man. John 18 tells us Jesus is sovereignly in control.
It shows us that when he was in the garden, even in the midst of the turmoil that was about to come rushing over him as a wave, Jesus was still tender. When Judas came to him, Jesus looks at him and says, "Judas, are you really going to betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" As if to say, "Think about what you are about to do. Do you really want to do this? You've already made some bad decisions, the primary one being you've never allowed me to be who I am but always wanted to force me into the role of a Zealot so you might accomplish your purposes.
You think your brothers' problems are the oppression of the political state around you. That's not your brothers' problems. The problem your brothers have is the problem you have, and that is you want to live life at your own will and your own way. You've never let me speak into your life the light of truth that would save you. Are you sure you want to continue in that path? Are you sure you want to deceitfully kiss me?"
You find out shortly that after that there's a group of men who are with Judas who are the religious leaders of the day. They also now have aligned themselves with Rome. Six hundred men. A Roman cohort. It is the special forces of Rome. They are there, armed and ready to go. Six hundred of them. As we saw last week, Peter in his zeal draws his sword, lops off the ear of the servant of the high priest, and says, "Should we do this, Jesus?" Ready, fire, aim Peter. There he is.
Jesus says, "Stop this. I don't want my name slandered with blood on my hands. I don't want anybody to think, Peter, that what's about to happen is going to happen because their guys beat my guys. No, Peter, you're in the way of even what my whole purpose is. This is going to go down, Peter, not because we can't take the 600. This is going to go down because this is my Father's will. I have come for such a purpose. Peter, you still haven't figured this out."
It should be noted that the very last miracle Christ ever performed was an act of mercy toward an enemy, in taking that ear that had been severed, putting it back on that servant of the high priest, and saying, "You guys need to know this. What's about to go down here is not because you've come after me with clubs, spears, and a Roman force. This is going to go down because this has been my Father's intention from the beginning, and I am ready to drink this cup."
We find out when those men came that after the kiss of Judas, Jesus walks to them and says to them, "Who is it you seek?" They say, "We come to seek this Jew named Jesus from Nazareth." They didn't know what he looked like. Isaiah tells us that Jesus was not real stately. He wasn't impressive in his physical appearance. He looked like a normal Jew to them. They couldn't make out who he was, but they were there to get him.
Jesus says, "I who speak to you am he." The Scriptures tell us at that moment, that 600 men, that fighting force, was thrown to their faces before him, along with others who had come to seize him and take him captive. Many people have distorted this to make this some ongoing act of worship, this thing called being slain in the spirit, which is complete nonsense. These are enemies of God who are brought down by the force of the power of his name and presence.
What is being established in John, as he records his account, is that God is firmly entrenched in the heavens. He does whatever he pleases. It pleases him to drink the cup of wrath so you and I, by some amazing grace, would not earn the wages of our sin. Jesus tells them to stand up, and he asks them one more time, "Now who is it that you seek?" Don't you imagine this time their voices came back a little more sheepishly? "Ah, Jesus, if you don't mind."
It's been well-said by one guy that if Jesus did not want to go with them, they could have brought the entire Roman legion with them, and he would not have moved. If, on the other hand, it was in God's sovereign will and in accordance with Jesus giving his life for others, a 5-year-old girl could have come and led him by the finger to the cross. Folks, that's what happens here.
Jesus did not want Peter striking that man's ear for a lot of reasons, chief among them, I believe, because he was going, "Peter, listen, you need to make sure you don't do anything that's going to allow people to think the reason this is going down is because wickedness is sovereign over me. I lay my life down, and nobody takes it from me. What you're about to see is a sham. What you're about to see is a perversion of justice. I know it, and all who see it after this will know it. Do not get in the way of the cup I am willing to drink because I love you, Peter, and I love these men who have come to take me, some of whom will later know me."
It's interesting that in John's gospel it names the servant of the high priest whose ear was cut off. He calls him Malchus. There's a reason his name was put in there. Many people believe (and I agree) the reason his name was put in there is because later this servant came to know Christ. Believers who read of the story of Christ would know, "Oh! That's Malchus, the guy in our church. He was the guy whose ear was cut off." He received that offer of mercy from the Savior and later saw that Savior's dying on the cross was even a greater act of mercy toward that sinner who came to get him that night.
They're led away from there. Again, lest we forget, let me remind you that Mark has long told us what is going on here is what Jesus has always anticipated. Starting back in Mark 9, and then again in Mark 10, it says, "Behold! Listen, guys, we are going to Jerusalem, that city on a hill. We are going to go up. When the Son of Man gets there, he will be delivered up to the chief priests, to the scribes. They will condemn him to death, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles because they don't want him just to be stoned in some dark corner of the city. They want him to be publicly humiliated."
Jesus would tell them, "They want him to be shamed because Jews don't have, gentleman, an opportunity to crucify somebody publicly. Jews can stone, if they want, but to crucify and to murder in a public way is Rome's sovereign right, and because these leaders want to bring shame upon my name and threaten any other who would stand against their religious traditions and perversions of the law, they will hand me over to the Gentiles. They will all mock me and spit on me at different times. They will scourge me, and they will kill me. Mark my word, I am in control even in the midst of this."
What you need to hear today, what I want to be reminded of again today, is that this is an amazing act of will that is God's gift of grace to you and me. The right response to it is to stand back, to bow low in the presence of God, and to be filled with the awe of grace. Are you amazed? If you're not amazed, it's because you don't understand the central character in this story. This is God.
This is God wrapped in human flesh who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. He is emptying himself. Not, if you will, resorting to his own ability to act according to his own nature, but as a man taking on the nature of a man, which forces him to depend upon the very nature of God the Father with whom he is one, though he is not the Father.
This Jesus, this God, will allow his creation to mock him, to spit on him, to murder him, to put themselves in a place of judge over him. Why? The answer is because of those who sit in this room today and those who would never grace this room. The answer is because of those who kissed him on the cheek, because of those who betrayed him in the garden. The answer is because of those who nailed him to the cross. The answer is because of you and because of me.
It's been well-said, when Christ yelled out, "Eloi, Eloi… My Lord, my Lord… My God, my God… Lama sabachthani? Why have you forsaken me?" in his Aramaic tongue. "Where are you, Father?" that heaven could have shouted forth and said, "Because of Todd Wagner, that's why. Because of [you insert your name]. That's why."
If you understand that is God… I don't expect you to intellectually get your arms around it. You have to accept this by faith. In other words, not that it's not absolutely verifiable in the context of history, but even in the face of history, we go, "It can't be. It can't be so, that God would love man so much that while they were yet sinners, he demonstrates his love and dies for them." But if it's true, "Were the whole realm of nature mine, that would be a present far too small."
If it's true, there is no response that is unreasonable. That's why Paul wrote, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice…" Everything for me Christ gave, so everything to him I will give. It's not a function anymore of, "What should I slide him under the door?" It's a function now of, "How can I honor him and glorify him with my life?"
If this is true, then as C.T. Studd said, there is no sacrifice which is unreasonable. There is no sacrifice which is too great. If it is true that Christ is God and he died for me, that he went through the shame and the sham of justice that he went through…the physical suffering, the emotional abuse, the emotional separation from God…then what can I do in response for him? The answer is, "Nothing to ever meet him. Nothing to ever earn his love, but everything to respond to it the right way."
Jesus is led from that garden, and he is taken (John tells us) right to Annas' house. Annas is basically the Godfather. He's not the high priest at that particular time. He was the high priest. Rome didn't like the way he was leading the people, so Rome said, "We're going to cut you out." Annas was still very influential within the Jewish community, so he put forth, successively, a number of his sons. Four of his sons.
Now his son-in-law, a guy named Caiaphas, is the high priest at that time but, if you will, Annas is still working behind the scenes as the Godfather. He's not the man on the street, but everybody knows what Annas says goes. He's the Joe Kennedy behind the John and the Robert and the Ted. He's the force to be reckoned with. You have to meet with Joe. Once Joe says it'll go, it'll go with his senator, president, and attorney general sons. That's who Annas is.
They take him late at night, now, right there. What we have here is a seizure of opportunity. A target of opportunity is now a familiar phrase in our language because of what has just happened over there in Bagdad. They weren't going to take him out this way, but it just worked out too well for them that Judas knew where he was. Not in the middle of the festival of Passover, where the people were at a zealous high waiting for, possibly, the deliverer to come who would take them away from the oppression of Rome, but now he's alone in this garden.
Judas knows, and "Let's get him. By the middle of the night we can get him. We can run through some things, push him toward Pilate, run him by Herod, push him to Pilate again, crucify him before we get into the High Holy season, and get rid of this man. This is our opportunity. Though we wanted to wait, heaven agreed with hell it needed to be done."
Heaven wanted it done at a specific time, so he could spell it out as clearly as he could. This was the Lamb of God who covers your sins, so the judgment and wage of sin would pass over you, so you would not die. Heaven wanted it to be clear who this Jesus was. It's who John the Baptist said he was the first time he was identified publicly as the Lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world.
He goes, and he's rushed before Annas, the father-in-law of the current high priest. As he is there, he begins to have a little dialogue with him. Annas asked Jesus about two things. He says, "Jesus, tell me about your disciples and about your teaching. What is it you taught, and what it is it about these men that they have left all to follow you?"
Annas is trying to set Jesus up here. What he wants to do is get Jesus to say something about how he is this great leader who will call all men to follow him. Then Annas can lead him right to Pilate and say, "Pilate, you need to know that this individual is looking to lead an insurrection against Rome. He is a terrorist, if you will. He is a rebel. He should be convicted of treason and tyranny." Jesus' response to Annas, as you would imagine, is he's ready for Annas. What he says to him in John 18:20 is: "…I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret."
I'm improvising now: "Annas, you know as well as I do that had I spoken of things that were tyrannical or treasonous, I would have been hauled away in a moment. You wouldn't have had to sneak up on me in the middle of the night in a garden. Rome would not put up with any zealot ideas. You know I wasn't arrested, and you know why I wasn't arrested. I didn't say anything I should be arrested for. You know, Annas. I spoke out against you and those of you who have perverted the law, upheld traditions beyond the law, and have missed the whole purpose of the law, which is to show men their need before me and my Father."
In verse 21 he says, "Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said." Jesus knew the law. Deuteronomy 17 and 19 say no man can be convicted of any crime except in the face of two or three witnesses. What Jesus is doing is basically, in a very polite way, he is calling the judge to account.
He's saying, "Judge, this is the hall of justice, right? You're the leader here. You're the man who is supposed to make sure righteousness reigns and truth prevails. Why aren't you acting in accordance with law? I thought this was a court of justice. You asked me. I won't testify against myself. If my testimony was such that I should be convicted, I wouldn't have ever made it here in the first place."
When he spoke this way, it says an officer standing nearby struck Jesus and said, "Is that the way you talk to the judge? Is that the way you talk to the high priest?" Jesus said, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?" Annas knew he was losing this bout. He knew there was nothing he could do with this man, but Annas also knew this was the moment they had been waiting for.
This was the one who threatened the religious community's leadership's ability to continue to stay in a place of power, a place of prestige. This is the one who threatened their life of comfort and ease. He said, "We may have lost the set, but we're not going to lose the match. Take him to Caiaphas." One trial. One lack of a conviction. Jesus, in his innocence, is now marched over to Caiaphas.
He gets to Caiaphas, and this is where Mark picks the story up. In Mark 14, verse 55, it says, "Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any." What you have here is a group of men called the Sanhedrin.
The Sanhedrin is basically the religious council that had been in existence, by and large… At least they traced their roots back to Exodus 18 where Moses gathered, under the encouragement of Jethro, 70 wise elders who would be the council that would basically lead the nation of Israel. These 70 men were largely allowed to meet under the permission of Rome to administrate the local society of Jews.
Rome didn't care much about the Jews as long as they behaved, paid their taxes, and did what Rome said they should do. There were 71 men in the Sanhedrin. The 70 men and then the president, if you will, of the Sanhedrin, which was the high priest. That is currently Caiaphas. These men were to meet in public, in open, in the light, but they're not meeting that way right now.
Government's purpose, as we have observed recently and in the past, is to be a minister of righteousness so the wicked might fear the deeds which they do in the dark. It's not the job of government to operate in the dark, but that's where these men are. They're not even in council. They're at Caiaphas' house. Whichever few of the Sanhedrin they could pull together are there. They're trying to pull together some reason they can get this Jesus to be convicted.
It says in verse 56, "For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him…" Verse 58 says they were basically distorting and twisting his claims about the temple. "Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent." They had Lenny and Squiggy on the witness stand, and it wasn't working out so well. Moe, Larry, and Curly couldn't get their story to cross.
Caiaphas is going to, again, break Jewish law. In fact, there have been, in the past, individuals of Jewish descent who, when they read this, say the Gospels cannot be true. They reject the gospel accounts of the crucifixion and trials of Jesus based on what they read here, because they say this is so contrary to Jewish law that there is no way this is historically accurate. It violates dozens of rules of propriety and justice. They would never meet in this way.
The high priest was a judge. He was not there to prosecute. He was not there to be a jury. He was there to simply make sure the laws were adhered to, but Caiaphas sees that these bozos… It's almost as if he whispers out of the corner of his mouth. He goes, "Couldn't you get somebody else? Couldn't you give a script they could have memorized? What are we doing here?"
He steps back up, and he starts to do what he was never to do, which is to himself prosecute the witness. In a minute you'll see that not only is he prosecuting the witness, but he begins to be the one who delivers a verdict against the witness. "…saying to Him, 'Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?'"
Now Jesus is going to speak. He didn't answer before when he was falsely accused because he knew there was no reason to. Now, when it's a matter of testimony, for the very first time you're going to hear Jesus embrace his title. Up until this point in Mark, the only people who publicly have professed this have been disobedient people, and specifically demons, or two times…once on the Mount of Transfiguration and the other at the baptism of Christ…a voice from heaven said, "Listen to my Son. This is the Son of Man. This is the Son of God. Listen to him."
When push comes to shove, now it's the hour that is at hand, and Jesus is going to reveal himself. He looks Caiaphas right in the eye and says, "Do you want to know who I am? I'm going to tell you." Verse 62 says, "I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN."
What Jesus does is he runs right to Daniel 7, which is the most dramatic messianic passage in your Old Testament. I'm going to take you there. I'm going to show you what Jesus was doing. What he's saying is, "Let me tell you something, Caiaphas. You know what's going on here, and I know what's going on here. Right now, you are judging me. That is perverse, but we will meet again. Then, as it should be, I will be the one judging you. You want to know who I am? You know who I am. I am he. What are you going to do with that?"
Daniel 7 basically says that Daniel saw in the visions the throne of God and one called the Ancient of Days, which is God the Father, if you will, who is sitting on his throne. He is ablaze with fire. It talks about different things the Father is associated with and different things the Father is allowing on earth, different forms of government to continue for a season.
It then says down there in verse 11 that the Evil One was speaking boastful words, and God was acting against the rest of the dominion and beasts. When we get to verse 13, Daniel says he kept looking. It says he saw "…One like a Son of Man was coming…" This is the first time we have that title. "…and He came up to [the Father] the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him."
He was found acceptable, is what is seen here. "And to Him [this one] was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed," Daniel 7:14 says.
Later John, in the book of Revelation, when he's unfolding the history of the future, talks about the seven trumpets, which is the final culmination of God's revelation in history. The seventh trumpet, in effect, recounts the details of what Daniel 7 would say and exactly what Jesus is saying to Caiaphas right here. "Caiaphas, you have it right. You know exactly who I am, and you will see me in my future role. We will meet again, but this time not as judged by the judge, but as judge of those whom I will judge. We'll get it right that time, and justice will roll at that particular time."
Caiaphas knew what he was doing, because Jesus was looking him right in the eye and saying, "I am the one whom you have been looking for. That's why I've done all the one you've been looking for should do. That's why I speak innately. That's why the people are amazed, because I don't refer to the rabbis when I speak. I say, 'Truly, truly, I say to you…' because I am the Word." When Caiaphas heard this, he ripped his clothes, something a high priest should never do in a court of law because it was a sign of judgment.
He gave the rule. He said, "…what further need do we have of witnesses?""The trial is over. I'm going to tell you now, the man is guilty," he says, by his own opinion. "'You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?' And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, 'Prophesy!' And the officers received Him with slaps in the face."
Jewish law says if a man is convicted of a capital punishment, 24 hours should pass, the case should be reintroduced, and he should be tried again to make sure that, in fact, the ruling was just. Well, these men, because they are on a roll and not concerned about justice, decide to play games. Now we're well past midnight, and what they do is they stick him in the basement of Caiaphas' house until morning.
They said, "We'll meet again the next day," which according to Jewish tradition was not until sunset the following day, but they said, "Let's just wait until daybreak. On that next day we'll force that into a 24-hour period, and we will try him again." Mark tells us that in verse 15. Now two trials Jesus has been through, in both of which the men have been frustrated by him. All he has done is proclaim the truth and ask them questions about why truth matters not to them.
In verse 1, Mark writes , "Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council…" They got together again, and they had their third trial, if you will. This consultation, this mockery. They bound Jesus, having again agreed with what they knew four hours earlier, and "…they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate."
Let me make it clear to you again what is going on here among the religious leaders. They did not just want Jesus to be killed by them as a blasphemer. They had already, if that was their goal, enough evidence in their own minds to do that. They had done that before when they were in public when they had said, "This man blasphemes, for he claims to be God and makes himself equal with God."
It wasn't time yet in God's kingdom program, and so until now they had never pushed themselves to this point, where they had an opportunity to execute their hate. They didn't want to do it alone. They wanted Rome to embarrass this man. They wanted Rome to put this man down, so they were trying to make Jesus look like an insurrectionist and, as I said, a tyrannist. They took him to Pilate. "Pilate questioned Him, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' And He answered him, 'It is as you say.' The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly."
They were saying, "This man is claiming to be a king. He's subverting our nation. He's stirring up discontent among the people. Pilate, you know we can't have that, especially at such a time as this. He opposes taxes to Caesar, and he makes himself out to be a king. Pilate, if you're any friend of Caesar, you cannot let this man go." You see because, basically, Rome didn't care if you blasphemed the Jewish God. Rome wasn't interested in intermural squabbles. They didn't really care what you said about Jewish law or Jewish gods.
They thought it was just despicable and nonsense, but when you start to mess and trifle with Caesar or lead his subjects against him, that would get Rome's attention. Which is why, again, Annas said, "What were you saying, and how were you getting men to follow you? They left all to do what you told them to do. It sounds to me like you're putting together a team that's going to rush against Rome." What's interesting here is, as you can tell, these men were running away from their deliverer and were celebrating their oppression.
Pilate pulls Jesus aside, and he says, "Don't you answer? Don't you hear these men and the way they accuse you?" "'See how many charges they bring against You!' But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed." Pilate saw where they were headed. The other gospel writers tell us Pilate knew these men had Jesus there simply because of envy. He was shocked that a man wouldn't defend himself against these accusers who were being petty in their account.
One of the things they said is, "This Nazarene is causing all kinds of trouble down here." Pilate's eyes lit up. He said, "Listen, I have no guilt with him, but did you say Nazareth? Herod is the one who has jurisdiction over Nazareth, and Herod happens to be in town. Take him to Herod." So, they took him from there, the other gospel accounts tell us, and they ran him by Herod.
Herod had long wanted to see Jesus. Now, early this next morning, they have him at Herod's castle. Herod is before Jesus and with him. Herod and his men are only hoping Jesus would fancy them with his miracles and tricks, which Jesus had none of, so Herod had no interest in him and basically said, "Get him out of my presence. He's wearing me out, and you're wearing me out. I had hoped, when we finally crossed paths, that I could see some of this power I had heard so much about."
Though they accused him before Herod, they got nothing there they wanted, so now they're back with Pilate. Now they're putting political pressure on Pilate, saying, "Listen, Pilate. We're bringing him back to you because we're telling you this man wants to be our king. We want Caesar as our king."
Now Pilate pulls Jesus aside one more time. In this dialogue he begins to talk to Jesus and say, "Look, Jesus, you have to do something here, or this is going to go down wrong." At that moment, word gets to Pilate, Matthew tells us, from his wife who says, "You have nothing to do with that innocent man, for I have had much trouble with him because of a dream this night."
It's as if God is reaching out to Pilate and saying, "Pilate, you know in your heart what's going on here. This is your moment to forgo your love of position, your love of power, your love of your ability to provide for yourself, your feathered bed. You profess what you know in your heart is happening here. You have nothing to do with this innocent man."
Pilate does all he can. He takes Jesus aside. He beats him. He mocks him. He scourges him. He brings him back out bloodied, hoping to appease the people that way. He says again, "This man is innocent. I find no guilt in him. I'll tell you what. Now that I've beaten him, I'll give him back to you as is my tradition every year during this time, to deliver up one of your prisoners. Do you want the King of the Jews?"
The leaders were on a mission. They had gotten in the midst of the crowd now and worked up a frenzy. They cried back, "No, we want to crucify him. Give us Barabbas." Verse 15 tells this all, right there. In Mark 15, verse 15, it says, "Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged [one last time] , he handed Him over to be crucified."
Pilate, like many other men after him have, for the love of position, power, popularity, and personal gain, forsook the Lord. Jesus is now put through the humiliation of a crucifixion. He is beaten beyond recognition. He is so battered and bloodied after a night of being pushed around to six different trials, all of which resulted in the exact same way, summarized right there in verse 14: "What evil has this man done?" The answer is none, and that's why he was fit to be a sacrifice for our watching world.
Mark tells us in verse 16, "The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort." Now they all have this Jesus in the middle, the one whom they bowed before just hours earlier. Verse 17: "They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began to acclaim Him, 'Hail, King of the Jews!'" Mocking him.
"They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him." They were saying, "Oh great King!" and making sport of him. "After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him."
I'm going to tell you, for all the abuse Christ went through, I am convinced the most difficult thing he went through was being a man who, at any moment, could have called down 72,000 angels to set things in order and state the case in order before their eyes. He just sat there and let these wicked men have their wicked way for the purpose of good. It's hard when you see somebody who deserves to be given adulation being disrespected or mocked, but it's really a sign of greatness.
Again, a crass illustration here. We'll use Kobe Bryant today and claim he's the most dominate, fluid basketball player of our age at this moment. We'll let Michael slide into history. If a 3-year-old walks up to Kobe, kicks Kobe in the shin, and says, "Let's go. Let's hoop it up. Let's take it on. Let's go. Let's go right now. Me against you. I'll take you down." If Kobe, in his pride, said, "You want to do it?"
If Kobe took that 3-year-old out there and dunked on him 15 consecutive times, passing the ball into that 3-year-old's chest harder and harder and knocking him over, none of us would have thought Kobe is a great man and go, "Well, he defended his name, that's for sure. Kobe is definitely better than that 3-year-old." In fact, we'd have thought it would be small of him. He knows who he is, and so he has no need to establish himself in that particular moment.
Christ has come in humility. Christ has come as a lamb at this particular moment. There are many who don't know he is far more than the Kobe Bryant of his claim. When these men are scoffing at him, spitting at him, beginning to question his ability, consistently circling him up, smacking him in the face, playing the Game of Kings (as they called it), saying "Why don't you prophecy now? Who hit you?" the fact that Christ didn't rip off his robe and say, "Time out. I'm going to tell you who hit me. It was you. Then it was you. Then it was you. Then it was you," and lightening didn't down consecutively and fry them all like a Cheeto to a crisply crackling crunch in a moment…
The fact that he didn't do that but allowed all that to happen. The fact that he went to the cross and on that cross was separated and experienced the loneliness of separation he, in eternity, had never experienced from his Father. The fact that he did that, that emotional suffering of being accused of being a liar, of being accused of being a blasphemer, of being accused of being a hater of all that is good.
He stood there and allowed himself, in his nakedness, to be seen that way when folks said, "If you're some great deliverer, deliver yourself now." To go through that moment, to be spit upon in weakness, and to have his own Father, because he became our sin, turn his back on him. Why would he endure such loneliness? Why would he endure such shame? The answer is because of the loneliness he knew you and I experience because of our isolation as a result of our sin.
I can do much with the physical sufferings of Christ. There have been a lot of studies about the horrible death a crucifixion is, what a scourging was and a cat o' nine tails, and what that did to the human flesh, but there is nothing I could do that would ever capture the moment. There's no amount of description that would ever capture the emotional pain he was going through for you and for me.
God knew this, and that's why he gave pictures and not many words in this scene. He gave the picture of Jesus being the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed for the sake of the people. He gave the picture of Jesus being the Scapegoat that was led out of the city. We won't go there, but in Leviticus 16 it talks about this.
One the highest holy day of the Jewish season, Yom Kippur (yom meaning day, kippur meaning atonement, Day of Atonement) it talks about how the high priest would take a bull for his own sins, a sin offering, and would kill that bull so he might be covered. He would go in with that blood and spread it out over the mercy seat.
He would take two pure goats. One goat would be murdered for the sins of the people, and his blood would be spilled out. The high priest would take that blood, would go back before the people, would take the other goat, and would cover the first goat's head in the blood of the innocent one that was slain. He would say, "This goat is going to now be led out in the wilderness to die. It will bear your sins of idolatry and rebellion. It will go, and it will be separated far from you and will die because of your sin. You will escape God's judgment because the Scapegoat is going to suffer your payment."
What you have here in Mark 15 is Jesus being the Scapegoat. He is being led out of the city of Jerusalem, just like the scapegoat. Psalm 103 says that as far as the east is from the west, so your sins will be taken from you. Jesus is led out from the city, and he is bearing the sins of the people. They will escape judgment. The wrath of God will pass over them because God will cover them with the blood of this Lamb, this pure one, who is led to slaughter.
What it says in Mark 15 at this particular point, in verse 21, is they pressed into service a passerby coming from the country. His name was Simon from Cyrene. He was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Simon is a Hebrew name. Alexander is a Greek name. Rufus is a Roman name. It's as if to say that this Jesus and his sacrifice covers all, the Hebrew, the Greek, the Roman, the Gentile, and the Jew. There is none who is not a part of this scene. He is the Scapegoat for all of them. He is the Passover Lamb for all of them.
What we know about Simon and his boys is they were undoubtedly, because they were from Cyrene, in city at this particular time because of the Passover feast. They came with one, maybe two, maybe three lambs that were important to that family's sustenance. Their Passover lamb would have been sacrificed 24 hours before, but still the father would have said to them, had there been other lambs with them, "Watch these lambs, for they are important to us. Don't lose the lamb."
There was a guy a number of years ago who wrote a song that captures what possibly could have happened. Extra-biblical to be sure, but it captures the heart and the intent of what I've been trying to tell you this morning. As a child who wants to do what his father wants to do and sometimes fails, what do you do in that moment?
This song captures what could have been the horror of Alexander and Rufus having failed to do what their father asked them to do which, in effect the case could be made, was a significant part of their family being in a right place with God. What do you do when the means through which you had to be right with God is gone? Listen to the song and learn where the Lamb is who helps you escape from your sin.
What happened in that moment was those fears of those children were saddled by that dad who took and said, "We don't need the lamb. There's the Lamb who takes away our sin, and his blood is on me." The Scriptures tell us that anybody whom his blood is on, by faith has been delivered from the wrath that is to come, and this is the decision we are called to make.
This is not about the betraying disciple. This isn't about the cowardly disciple. This isn't about the unfaithful priest. This isn't about the cowardly governor. This is about you and about me. The question today is…Who is your lamb? What will you present to God as a means through which your sin will be atoned and covered for? Most people are looking to present their own works, their own efforts, their own offerings, their tithe of service, their tithe of whatever form of philanthropy or act of goodwill or morality they think they can.
God says (and you can understand having listened to and seen and read what we've just read) how it offends him for us to think that in our unholiness we could ever match the holiness of that gift. What we believe at Watermark, what the Scriptures say, what Jesus has had his disciples teach for thousands of years, and what God has had history pivot on, is the moment when the Lamb died for you and for me. That alone is the means through which you and I can have enough that God would say, "You're acceptable in my sight."
The song we're about to sing to close our service together is a song that simply says that. All of you, Jesus, is more than enough for all of me. You alone are the means through which I can have all God requires of me. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of the Lamb is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If you have never come to a place where you yourself are responding to that sacrifice of our Savior, then make this song your profession of faith and come tell us you're trusting in that sacrifice of Christ alone as enough for you. We are eager and gracious recipients of a gracious gift, so we eagerly extend that gift to you.
We present to God nothing other than the sacrifice of the Lamb. We offer to you nothing as a means through which you might be acceptable in his sight, except that Lamb. Don't just watch the Lamb this morning. Trust in him. Avail yourself to him. Come to him. Be transformed by him as you are covered by his provision.
Next week there are going to be all kinds of folks who want to celebrate the fact that this Lamb's life wasn't ruined, this Lamb's life wasn't ended, but God raised him from the grave that he might roar again as that Son of Man who will come in power. We know that about 50 percent of this country would come to a church if somebody would invite them. One of the reasons we went to two services is to allow you to have that opportunity to tell people that Jesus is more than enough for the wages of sin.
He lives again. Let's profess what we believe. Let's declare this week what we know to our friends who are wondering if there's anything they can do once they've blown it and they have nothing to offer God. Yes. There's a Lamb who was slain, and who was risen again. We look forward to that this week and celebrate that now by declaring that he's more than enough.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? In this, the last volume of the sermon series devoted to the Gospel of Mark, Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Community Church, looks at the final week of Christ's life and what happened next. You'll see how one man changed the entire course of human history and how He can change the course of every individual life that understands and responds to the events described in Mark 14:1-Mark 16:8.